These deliciously salty sweet cookies are perfect for an afternoon pick-me-up, as an after dinner treat or for shipping to your loved ones far and wide. They're one of my absolute favorite cookies of all time! Try this Brown Sugar Brown Butter Shortbread Cookie recipe today and do your best not to eat the whole plateful.
I don't know about you, but I happen to LOVE shortbread cookies. I love how crispy and crumbly they are. They're perfectly soft after dipping them in tea or coffee. And they aren't too sweet, meaning they're awesome anytime of day or night. They also just happen to be sturdy enough to survive shipping, making them one of my favorite go-to holiday cookies.
Table of Contents
- How to Make Brown Butter Shortbread Dough
- Frequently Asked Questions
- Need more dessert inspiration? Check out these other recipes:
I also happen to be a HUGE fan of anything made with browned butter. The nutty, salty-sweet flavor of browned milk solids is life changing. Especially when added to delectably short crumbed cookies. Trust me.
Depending on your tolerance for the sweet-salty ratio, these cookies can verge almost into cracker territory, and are as comfortable on a cheese plate as they are on a cookie tray. I happen to adore salty sweets, so I have a tendency to push the envelope on this one. That said, feel free to dial it back to make these more of a traditional sweet.
How to Make Brown Butter Shortbread Dough
With just five ingredients, most of which I assume are in your pantry already, you can make some of the most delicious cookies around. You'll need flour, brown sugar, kosher salt, vanilla and butter. I personally like to use salted butter because my style is pushing that salty-sweet envelope to the limit, but feel free to substitute unsalted butter or go halvsies if you prefer a more traditional sweet.
First up you'll need to brown the butter. Regardless of whether you use salted or unsalted butter, you'll see a few stages. First, the butter will melt. Next, the milk solids will separate and float to the top. They will then sink to the bottom. Keep swirling the pan.
The butter will then bubble quite furiously, making it look almost like head on a beer. Around this time, you want to be very vigilant and continue stirring because it can burn very easily at this stage. Once the butter gives off a nutty smell and the milk solids are golden brown, remove it from heat and pour browned butter into a container to refrigerate.
Once the butter is just solidified (after about an hour and a half), scoop it into a mixing bowl and beat it until it is light and fluffy. Add the brown sugar and the vanilla and continue beating it for about 5 minutes, until the mix is a fluffy, light golden brown.
Add the flour and salt and mix until combined. The dough will initially look a little sandy. Continue beating until the dough just comes together.
Separate dough in half. Roll into two logs about 2 inches (the length of your thumb) in diameter. Roll the logs in turbinado sugar, then wrap in parchment. Refrigerate the dough for at least an hour or two, until solid. Dough will keep for up to a week in the refrigerator or up to three months if placed in a freezer bag in the freezer.
Slice dough into ¼ inch rounds. Place roughly two inches apart on a parchment or Silpat lined baking sheet.
Bake for 10-12 minutes, until golden brown and a little spread out. Allow to cool on the sheet pan for about 5 minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack. Cookies will keep for up to a week in an airtight container, if you have some serious self restraint. They almost never make it past the first day in this house, but that's just us.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I make these brown butter cookies ahead of time?
Absolutely! One thing I love about rolled cookie dough is how easy it is to keep frozen or refrigerated without taking up too much space. The cookie dough will keep in the refrigerator for up to a week or in the freezer for up to three months.
If you want to bake off the cookies ahead of time, they are best consumed within a week. Keep cookies in an airtight container for best results.
Are Brown Sugar Brown Butter Cookies good for shipping?
The cookies are a *little* on the crumbly side, so it is best to do a little strategic packing to ensure that the cookies arrive in good condition. Stack the cookies a few high, wrap in foil, and then stack into delitainers or Tupperware to keep the air out. Pack the containers relatively tight into whatever box you're shipping to make sure there isn't too much jostling.
While I recognize that there are a few steps listed to get your cookies to their recipients in the best condition possible, this is the case with basically any baked good that you ship.
What if I don't have turbinado sugar?
While turbinado sugar gives a lovely crunch and sparkle to the outside of these cookies, it isn't necessary. If you don't have any on hand, you can either omit it or sub in sanding sugar or sprinkles (or maybe some pretty little non-pareils?!) instead.
Can I make a vegan version of these cookies?
Since there aren't any eggs in this recipe, making the dough vegan is pretty easy! The trick is to get the right kind of vegan fat substitute. In this particular case, I would recommend using a European style cultured vegan butter if you want the "butter" to brown like the normal stuff.
Otherwise, you can get some of the same flavor of browned butter if you add a teaspoon of hazelnut oil or ¼ teaspoon of hazelnut extract to the recipe and sub in softened vegan butter or margarine.
Can I make these shortbread cookies gluten free?
Absolutely! Just substitute gluten free one-to-one flour. The consistency will depend on the brand you use. Generally speaking, I have had the best results with Krustez brand. I should tell you I do not have an affiliation with their company, just happen to like that particular product!
Need more dessert inspiration? Check out these other recipes:
- Apple Cinnamon Monkey Bread
- Healthy Apple Crisp for Two
- Coconut Ginger Key Lime Bars
- Julia Child's Favorite Brownies
If you made these salty-sweet Brown Sugar Brown Butter Shortbread Cookies, let me know how they turned out for you by rating and reviewing them below.
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Brown Sugar Brown Butter Shortbread Cookies
- Melt butter in a heavy bottomed saucepan and bring to a simmer. Milk solids will separate and float to the top, and then will sink to the bottom. Swirl the pan every few minutes, and continue cooking until the milk solids are golden brown and the butter smells nutty. Pour into a lidded container and refrigerate until just solid - about 90 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 350F. Whip solidified browned butter till light and fluffy. Add brown sugar and vanilla and cream for about 5 minutes. Mixture should be light and fluffy.
- Add flour and salt, and mix until incorporated. The dough will first look a little sandy, and then will come together. Stop mixing once it becomes a uniform dough.
- Split dough in half. Roll into two logs about two inches (thumb length) in diameter. Roll in turbinado sugar then wrap in parchment paper. Refrigerate until firm, about 1-2 hours.
- Slice into ¼" rounds, then place on a parchment lined sheet pan about 1 ½ inches apart. Bake at 350F for 10-12 minutes, until golden. Cool for 5 minutes on pan, then move to a cooling rack.
- Enjoy with a glass of milk, a warm cup of tea, or your morning coffee. Or serve with cheese for a fun twist on crackers!
- Dough can be made and rolled in parchment in advance. It will keep in the refrigerator for up to a week or in the freezer for up to three months if sealed in a freezer bag.
- Want less of a salty cookie? Cut the salt down by half and/or use unsalted butter.
- Turbinado sugar can be substituted for sanding sugar, non-pareils or jimmies.
- Want vegan cookies? Opt for a cultured vegan butter, or soften butter and add about ½ teaspoon of hazelnut extract to mimic the nuttiness of browned butter.
- Want gluten free cookies? Substitute a gluten free 1-to-1 flour mix.